Texas Hispanic Journal of Law & Policy, 2015/04/01, Vol: 21, p31
constitutional law, criminal law procedure, governments, international law, international trade law, military veterans law, and pensions benefits law
Introduction After more than a century under U.S. rule, the political status of Puerto Rico remains unresolved. A constitutional law scholar has advanced the proposition that, "Puerto Rico and the United States are truly at the crossroads, in a situation of crisis, at a time when a critical decision must be made." 1 A Spanish colony for 400 years, it came under the sovereignty of the United States in 1898. By then, Puerto Rico had developed its own identity as a Spanish-speaking Latin American nation of the Caribbean. Since then, three major pieces of legislation enacted under congressional powers to "make all needful rules and regulations" regarding the territories are of special significance. 2 First, the Foraker Act of 1900 3 ordained a civil government to replace military rule, set the conditions for relations between local and federal governments, and provided for an elected, non-voting delegate, a "resident commissioner," to the U.S. Congress, which continues to exist to this day. The second organic act, the Jones Act of 1917, 4 added, among other provisions, an elected Senate, extended U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans (in spite of vigorous opposition by the sole elective body, the House of Delegates, 5 now renamed "House of Representatives"). The third important congressional enactment was Public Law 600 of 1950, authorizing a process whereby the people of Puerto Rico could draft and approve a constitution for a strictly local government. 6 Public Law 600 amended the provisions of the 1917 Jones Act establishing the ...